We're Baaack!

PeteAugust is here.  Time for youth group, choir, and Bible study to resume.  Hopefully you had a great relaxing summer with trips to the mountains, the coast, and points outside of Hopkins County.  It is again time to live out Christ’s presence in our neighborhood.  It’s time to assess our gifts and match them with the needs of our community.  I know that Christ is calling us to use our strengths in particular ways for particular reasons.  He is calling us to reach out in ways we could never imagine.  What do you believe you can do to help in stewardship, mission, fellowship and worship?  We have many opportunities for you to participate if you are willing to ask God to give you guidance and direction.  How about dreaming, planning, and implementing outreach and evangelism?  How about engaging every member to carry out the mission of FPC.  You remember: "To know Jesus as Lord and Savior and make Him known."  Do you ask the Holy Spirit to check your spiritual pulse and get you interested and involved in the needs, desires, and challenges of our congregation?

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Did You Hear About...?

May I ruffle your feathers?

I too often hear that Jesus had to forgive Peter three times because Peter denied Jesus three times.  Interesting.  I have on good authority that Jesus died for us so we could be forgiven once and for all.  Long before we read John 21, Jesus had forgiven Peter.  In John 21:15-17, Jesus was commissioning Peter to feed the lambs - those new believers who needed nurturing, to take care of my sheep by pastoring the flock, and to feed my sheep by continuing to guide and direct even the older sheep.  Some of my Baptist friends tell me Peter spoke Greek because Jesus asked Peter, "Do you AGAPE me," and Peter replied, "I PHILIOS you."  My understanding is that Peter spoke Aramaic, and could neither read nor write.  I currently hear that a gentleman in town believes I baptize incorrectly because I repeat the words of Christ, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and not in the name of Jesus only.  I have heard that the Great Banquet has become the Great Testimony and Salvation Show and that 260 West McLaughlin Ave is their church building.  I have heard that our church is dying and when it finally takes its last breath so it will be.  I have heard that the mission of First Presbyterian is "To know Jesus as Lord and Savior and to make Him known."  I hear a lot.

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Do We Really Thirst for God?

This past Wednesday I had the honor and privilege to officiate my Uncle Don’s funeral.  It was easy because Don knew Jesus and was prepared for leaving this world and entering Heaven.  Don accepted God’s Gift of Grace early on and spent about eighty years fellowshiping with God in prayer, Bible study, and worship.

Some people openly declare that they don’t want to go to Heaven.  Some people tell me that they would rather be with their friends in hell than with the church crowd in heaven.

Most people, however, say they hope to go to Heaven when they die, but I’ve often wondered what makes them think they would be happy there.  They ignore Jesus and want nothing to do with God.  They show no interest in Bible reading, prayer, and worship.  Why would they suddenly enjoy fellowship with God on the other side?

We say we want God in our lives, but how passionately do we seek fellowship with Him?  How much time do we spend reading His Word, praying, and worshiping?  Does our soul thirst for Him and our thoughts long for Him?

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Of Charlatans and Itching Ears

The charlatan is a person who uses Christianity as a means of personal enrichment.  Paul charged Timothy to be on guard against him.  “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).  The charlatan is only interested in the Christian faith to the extent that it can fill his pocket.  He uses his leadership position to benefit from others.

The "tickler" is the false teacher who cares nothing for what God wants and everything for what men want.  He is a man pleaser rather than a God pleaser.  Paul thought of him as the ear tickler.  “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but have itching ears.  They will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  The "tickler" craves popularity and praise from the world.  To maintain his followers’ respect, he preaches only the parts of the Bible he deems acceptable.  Therefore, he speaks much of happiness but little of sin; much of Heaven, but nothing of Hell.  He gives them only what they want to hear.  He preaches a partial gospel which is no gospel at all.

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Spending Time

We have two golden retrievers who relish attention.  The other morning Duffy, the younger of the two, came over and indicated that he needed more attention, and seemed to say, “What better things do you have to do today than spend some time with me?”  I was busy being busy, and realized he was right, and furthermore, he was reminding me of what God asked earlier in the morning, “What better things do you have to do today than spend time with me?”  Yes, Josephine Victoria “Joy” Behar, both God and our dogs converse with me on a daily basis, and they make a heck of a lot more sense than you.

The best reason for us to spend time with God is to follow biblical examples.  In the Old Testament, we see God call prophets to come to Him.  Moses met with God alone at the burning bush and then on Mount Sinai.  David, whose many psalms reflect a confident familiarity with God, communed with Him while on the run from Saul.  God's presence passed by as Elijah was in the cave.  In the New Testament, Jesus spent time alone with God.  Jesus actually instructed us to pray to God alone at times, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen."  (Matthew 6:6)

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Are You the One?

"John the Baptist, having done exactly what God has wanted him to do, finds himself in prison and about to be beheaded.  He sends his disciples to ask Jesus, 'Are you the Messiah, or should we seek someone else?'"  Matthew 11:2-6

I used to think John was questioning Jesus.  However, he knows who Jesus is and he, John, knows he is about to die.  So, he sends his followers to Jesus to become disciples of Christ.  Jesus tells them, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard.”  In other words, go back and tell John that you believe the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.  Tell John that he has accomplished what God the Father had for him to do (Jeremiah 29).  Tell him that those who have been living in darkness now see the LIGHT, that those crippled by the enemy now walk in that Light, that those who were living in sin are now cleansed by the power of the Holy Spirit, that those who refused to listen to the WORD are now living by it, and that those who were dead to the SPIRIT are now alive and are preaching the Good News.  Now John can die in Peace (John 16:33) and he knows that he has been blessed by God.  “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me” (v.6).  When we proclaim that we are followers of Christ, do we truly know how blessed we are, and that we can die in peace, or are we looking for something else?  Jesus has already done what He is going to do.  Like John the Baptist, those who are persecuted in this world for being followers of Jesus, yet do not turn away, shall be truly blessed.

On the Inside,

Pastor Pete

Is There Enough Evidence to Prove You Are Saved?

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save them?"  James 2:14 NIV

This verse begins a controversial passage, one often misunderstood.  Here, James will begin to make the case that genuine faith in Christ results in genuine change in the actions of believers.  On the surface, it's really not such a radical idea.  Human beings tend to act on what we truly believe.  Those who believe God is right and good and powerful will most naturally obey Him.  Those who believe God has called them to meet the needs of others will most naturally look for ways to do that.

The controversy comes with what appears, at first glance, to be a contradiction with the teachings of Paul and the other New Testament writers.  Paul says in Ephesians 2:8–9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."  James, on the other hand, seems to be questioning whether or not a person can be saved without works.

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